Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Newby / Newbie - Help is at hand

It just occurred to me that I haven't really stated what I want this blog to be.

So I'll state it here: I want this blog to be the first point of call for any newby / newbie.

I want it to be the ONE PLACE everyone will come to if there's something technological they don't understand. I want to explain the most complex terminology and technology in the most simple terms.

I want to post links to resources - mostly free. I want this blog to be the authoritative resource on things net-and-computer-related for those who are bewildered by the technospeak spouted at them by others.

Yeah, that's what I want this blog to be.

I want you to be able to tell your friends, "You GOTTA check what this guy says."

THAT'S what I want.


Friday, November 25, 2005

More on Google Analytics

Well, they sent me an email with a whole lotta stuff, the upshot of the undershot I take to mean it's not my fault - whatever I thought my fault was.

I think they're trying to say - and I'm being circumspect here (not to be confused with the OTHER "circum-" word) - they weren't prepared for the flood of people who registered and then expected results.

Oh well, they say they'll have things sorted out by the end of November.

That's like, next week.

If I survive the play tomorrow.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Google Analytics: It's a Jungle out there!

... and it's getting "junglier" (do forgive me if I lapse into Indianisms now and then, some of them express what I want to say so accurately).

I tried to set up Google Analytics for my general blog, figuring that someone or the other is going to ask me about it sometime or the other and I better figure out what it's all about.

To put it simply, Google Analytics is supposed to help you figure out who is visiting your site and how your site is being viewed, so you can tweak it to convert more browsing public into paying public.

So I faithfully followed the instructions and pasted the code into my site template. Google Analytics has a button to check if the code has been inserted correctly. I clicked it. It said it couldn't find the code. So I checked my blog template again. I seemed to have done it correctly. So I tried the Help link at Google. It told me to go to the site, view the html for the page and see if the code is there. Thank God I know how to do that. So I did it. Code shows. Google Analytics still says (after I tried to get it to check again) that the code can't be found.

Now, I'm fairly web-and-computer savvy. I may not know much html but I can find a part of the template I'm supposed to find and paste what I'm supposed to paste there. I did all that and it doesn't work.

All I can do is follow the classic computer user's procedure. Shut down, wait a while and try again. I'll do that when I'm done surfing and talking to my online friends. 24 hours to the next update, folks, sorry. That's how computers work.

Don't worry if you haven't understood a thing I've said above. It's a niche thing and if you still aren't in the loop about Google Analytics, there's nothing to worry about. You won't be kicked off the net.

How about a question or two so I know what your concerns are? Ask me anything. Even stuff like how to set up an email account. I'm here to answer.


Mailing List? Try Yahoo Groups

Creating a Mailing List through Yahoo Groups

In this age of spam filters and other anti-spam measures, including legal action, it is important to ensure that your newsletters and other literature go only those who wish to receive them. Recipients should also be able to quickly and easily "opt out" of the list if they no longer wish to receive your emails.

I’ve found Yahoo Groups an excellent way to create your own opt-in list. It has features like daily digests (all mail from the group is sent to the subscriber just once a day in a single mail – very useful if the group becomes hyperactive and has members sending umpteen messages flying back and forth daily), spam reporting, filtering of subscribers and, of course, opt-out / unsubscribe already built-in. So for a net newby or for someone who wants to create a small list quickly, it works really well.

Here’s how you can use Yahoo Groups to create your own mailing list of subscribers who want to receive your marketing and other messages.

First, have something to offer

You must give your subscribers a reason to opt in. Promises don’t work, immediate rewards do. So create an e-book or an audio book that can be easily emailed to the subscriber. Remember to put in information about your main product and how to get it on every page of your e-book or every once in a while in your audio book.

Next, create your Yahoo Group

Go over to http://www.groups.yahoo.com and create the group within the category and sub-category you desire.
Put some information on the group homepage. Upload a picture, logo or banner if you can. Remember to state that subscribers’ email addresses will never be sold or otherwise made available to third parties. State that if subscribers choose to remain in the e-group they will receive regular or occasional emails from you about your product or service.

Tweak the Group Settings

Go to the Management section of the group and set your preferences there. You may choose to run it as an e-group, where members may post to the group, or as a newsletter-only group, where only you may send messages. There are several sub-options within these, governing the subscription procedure, administration of the group, etc. Select the ones that apply to your group.

Caution: Be very careful with options that say, "You CANNOT change this later." My advice is to leave those options set to the default.

Change the welcome message if you wish. This is the message that will be sent to every new subscriber.

Upload your "offer" to the Group

Once you have the e-group set up to your liking, upload your e-book or audio book to the FILES section of the group by clicking the (what else?) FILES link.

Make sure you set the file to be sent to every new subscriber upon subscription.

Promote your Group

This is where you actually begin to use the Yahoo Group to create your mailing list. Click the PROMOTE link and get the html code. Copy that and post it into your website to create the Yahoo Group subscribe button. Of course, you have to put in some information and make a sales pitch to motivate people to click the button. This is where you tell them about the fantabulous free offer you have and how it’s going to change their lives.

That’s it! You’re done! You now have a trusted site that generates your opt-in list.

To see this in operation, visit the Golden Voice page of my website:
Click the Yahoo Groups button there and see how easily you get added to my mailing list and how easily you may opt out of it at any time.

"The world’s a stage. What are you doing in the wings?"

Monday, November 14, 2005

Cool Site: Savefile.com

I've been intending to tell you about this site for some time but I've been having a struggle with my conscience and so haven't posted about it till tonight.

The struggle is simply this: The site has an affiliate program, meaning, if I can get you to sign up through my affiliate link, I can collect Brownie points that will help me by allowing those who download my files to do so without seeing an advertising page first. There's no money changing hands and I would, of course, tell you it's an affiliate link, but it just seemed to open the door to future duplicity.

So I've decided to give you the "raw" link. That means if you sign up for their service I gain nothing from it except the pleasure of knowing I've helped you get your stuff across to whoever you want to send it to, with no compromise on my integrity. I want to be able to look you in the figurative eye and tell you to go to a particular site or use a particular software because I genuinely believe it will solve your problem or enhance your online presence, not because I make something off it.

And so, after that bit of pontificating, here's the dirt on Savefile.com:
Ever so often we have files we'd like to share with others. Not just friends, perhaps those who are visiting our website or acquaintances in an online network like Ryze, LinkedIn or Ecademy. We can't possibly email each one of them. One solution, of course, is to host the file on our website and offer a link for download. I've done that with sample scenes from my plays.

However, this is not always possible. We may not have a website or there may be bandwidth constraints (some website hosts do not allow files over a particular size to be hosted or do not allow downloads over a certain limit).

So we have to use another online repository. Yahoo Briefcase no longer allows public downloads. Most other online repositories have bandwidth and / or file size limits. Not so Savefile.

I like Savefile because it has an upper limit of 60MB for each file and NO LIMIT on the number or frequency of downloads. In other words, those to whom you make the download link available may download the file any number of times, share the link with firends who may, in turn, download the file and then share the link with their friends and so on.

There's a catch of course, but it's a negligible one. When your friends / visitors click the download link, they are first taken to an advertising page where the actual download button may be seen. In my opinion, this is a negligible price to pay for free hosting upto 60MB per file and unlimited downloads.

Be warned, however, if there are no downloads for a period of 14 days, your file is deleted from Savefile with no prior warning to you. This is the one bad thing about Savefile. Again, in my opinion, it's a small price to pay for the site's very generous filesize and bandwidth allowance. All you need to do is log in every few days and check the download statistics. If there have been no downloads for the last 13 days, just log out, click your own download link and download the file to keep it alive. Beats paying for hosting and bandwidth.


Of Windows and Outlook Express

A friend of mine was in a quandary. Windows had crashed – as it is wont to do at unexpected times for inexplicable reasons – and he was afraid he’d lost his entire address book and, of course, all the messages in his inbox and sent folders. Not to mention the messages he’d saved in separate folders, depending on their relevance.

Fortunately, his hardware guy had saved his earlier Windows data.

The question now was, how to retrieve that data?

Outlook Express was useless in trying to locate the relevant files. In true Windows fashion, it presumed that wherever it decided to store data was the one and only true folder to contain that data.

So I searched the net to find programs that would help me find his data and save it in a format he could use. Here’s what I found:

Most programs are the paid kind, where “shareware” downloads do nothing more that tell you where the data is but refuse to extract it for you. That’s about as useful as a street sign telling you that you’re on the wrong street. Just think, how useful can a street sign that reads “Wrong Street” be?

So I dug a bit deeper and found this:
Cool software to read old Outlook files

Now, that was getting somewhere!

I downloaded the setup program, ran it, installed the software and voila! It allowed me to open the old Outlook Express folders and read each and every message, with the option to select text, copy it and paste it into Word or even Notepad.

More on this in a day or two


Friday, November 04, 2005

What D'you Do When the Lights Go Out?

The nightmare returned today. We lost electricity and when it returned and I switched on my computer, horror of horrors, it said it couldn't find Win.com and couldn't load Windows.

I'll cut to the chase and spare you the hours I had to spend reloading Windows (after first re-formatting the hard disk) and reinstalling everything from the Monitor drivers to the browser and internet software. Point is, hard as it was to reinstall stuff, a LOT of heartache was saved because I have developed crash-friendly habits over the years. Examples are saving data on drives other than the System drive and regularly backing up items like my browser bookmarks.

Once I had the basic software in place, it was a matter of minutes to import my bookmarks and get here to post this piece. Over the next few days I'll post suggestions to protect yourself from the inevitable as far as Windows is concerned: System Crash.

Ignore them at your peril,

PS: I was all set to point you to a very well-designed and easy-to-understand site too, but this crash forces me to keep my post here very short. If you can't wait, check chicki's comment in my previous post and navigate to her site. That's the one I wanted to showcase today. If you're the patient kind, wait a couple of days till I can evaluate her site properly and post my recommendations.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I am amazed

I really am. I'm amazed at the number of Gurus who presume you know all about FTP and podcasting and recording and exporting to mp3 and a whole lot of other stuff besides.

Hey, I've been teaching people to use the computer for almost 20 years, and I STILL get gobsmacked by things like RSS and podcasting and yes, even measly ole FTP. So where does that leave the average net newbie? Feeling VERY downcast, I suspect.

Let's take a case in point. In the early days of my own attempts to get onto the net, I signed up for the only internet package that was available in India at the time and was given a CD, a letter with my secret login ID and password and a book about the Internet.

Since I was rather diffident about getting onto the Internet right away, I decided to read the book first. BIG mistake.

The book, written by one of the foremost computer Gurus in India, started off with "One of the prime questions people have is, 'who owns the Internet'?"

Now, that question had never occurred to me. I didn't care who owned the Internet. I only cared about whom I had to pay to get onto the Internet. Yet the book devoted an ENTIRE CHAPTER to that question, throwing acronyms like ICANN and ARPANET and other nonsense at me. So I asked others who were also embarking on the Internet journey. "Do you wonder who owns the Internet?" I asked. "Owns?" was the reply, "Who cares?"

That was the beginning of my realisation that almost ALL net Gurus have it all wrong. Over the years of my using the Internet, that realisation has only been strengthened by every "newby help" site I see. They aren't helping newbies. They're just tom-tomming their knowledge.

I hope this site will be different. I'm not interested in showing you how good I am. I am VERY MUCH interested in helping you enjoy, and profit from, your own net presence.

So anytime any of you see me trying to answer a (self ideated) question like "Who owns the Internet?" I hope you'll post a caustic comment to let me know I'm trying to show off rather than help you.